Longhorns Sweep Titles at Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Championships

track and field champions

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AMES, Iowa – Texas Track and Field made it a clean sweep on Saturday winning the men's and women's Big 12 Conference Indoor Championships. The women's team went toe-to-toe with Kansas State throughout the meet and pulled off the victory over the final four events by 6.5 points. The Longhorn men won by more than 40 points to give Texas its first sweep at the Big 12 indoor meet since 2006.

"We obviously knew coming into the meet who our main competitors were going to be," Head Coach Mario Sategna said. "We just had to come in, and yes, have our core group lead the charge, but at the same time we were going to ask a lot of them in doubling and tripling in certain events.

"Then, the conference title is won with a complete team, and that's where even our youngsters had to step up and scratch for those sixth or seventh or even eighth place points. That ends up being the difference. It's a huge learning experience for them."

Texas scored 139 points over the 19 events on the women's side to hold off K-State's 132.5, and the men dominated the field with 140 points. Oklahoma State finished second for the men with 95.5 points.

The women saw the momentum shift in their favor in the 200 meters when five Longhorns scored to give them the lead over K-State by 7.5 points. Texas reclaimed that lead with Sandie Raines finishing fourth in the 3,000 meters for five points, after the Wildcats grabbed the lead in the triple jump.

Going into the final event, the women's lead over K-State was 4.5 points. As long as Texas hung close to K-State in the 4x400, the women would repeat as indoor team champs.

"Winning is going to continue to happen at the University of Texas," Sategna said. "I think now more and more these athletes in that program are starting to see the light. They saw that if they pull together as a team and as a group there's going to be some great things that happen."

The Longhorns won five individual titles for the women, plus the 4x400 meter relay, while the men claimed four titles.

"Overall it's an honor to win. Since 2006, this is the first time our team has won both the men's and women's titles. What a tremendous feat," Sategna said. "We're going to regroup now and get ready for the national meet in two weeks in Arkansas."

A handful of Longhorns will turn their attention toward the NCAA Championships in two weeks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The top 16 individuals in each event will qualify for the meet and the top 12 relay teams in the DMR and 4x400 will compete for the crown March 13-14.

4x400 Drama Seals Victory
The women's team title came down to the final event of the meet, the 4x400 meter relay. With a 4.5-point lead on K-State, the Wildcats could overcome the Longhorns if K-State could win and Texas finish fourth or worse. Scenarios did exist for the Wildcats to claim the team title without winning, but that would require Texas to finish sixth or worse.

Texas proved why it was the No. 1-ranked 4x4 team in the nation running by not putting any doubt into the final outcome. The tandem of Morolake Akinosun, Ashley Spencer, Courtney Okolo and Kendall Baisden clocked 3:34.72 to defeat K-State by just over three seconds.

All four of the women on the relay ran in multiple events over the weekend. Akinosun, Okolo and Baisden all won individual titles earlier in the day before running in the relay. Spencer was runner-up to Baisden in the 400.

Longhorns Sweep 60 Again
Morolake Akinosun and Senoj-Jay Givans each successfully defended their crowns in the 60 meter dash. Akinosun bested the field with a time of 7.23 seconds to hold off Oklahoma's Hannah Cunliffe in 7.28.

Givans out-leaned the two fastest runners in the nation at the finish line to win with a time of 6.59. The timing crew had to go to three decimal places to determine a winner with his official time of 6.585 defeating TCU's Ronnie Baker at 6.588.

Entering the meet, many in the track and field community were talking about Oklahoma State's John Teeters and Baylor's Trayvon Bromell, who ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the NCAA. Givans came on strong at the end after a slower start to win at the line.

Givans' time now ranks him No. 8 in the NCAA to ensure a spot at the NCAA Championships. He came into this weekend on the borderline as the No. 14. He becomes only the second athlete to win back-to-back men's 60 meter titles in Big 12 history.

Crouser Breaks Big 12 Record
Ryan Crouser won the men's shot put and did so in style as the junior broke the Big 12 Championship meet record and Leid Recreation Center facility record on his third attempt. Crouser improved on his NCAA lead with a mark of 21.14 meters (69-4.25). He defeated the field by more than a full meter with Oklahoma's Chase Sammons taking second at 19.01 meters (62-4.50).

Texas Dominates 200m

The women's team qualified five runners to the final in the 200 on Friday night. They took advantage of the opportunity to grab big points with Morolake Akinosun finishing second for eight points.

Ashley Spencer, Kendall Baisden and Caitland Smith went 4-5-6 for the Horns and Shania Collins took eighth for the team to tally 21 points in the event and grab the lead from K-State in the overall scoring at that point in the meet.

"We had to maximize on our strengths. We had to be pull in points across the board, and I can't say enough about Coach Tonja in regards to getting that group of sprinters and hurdlers ready, as well as the rest of these coaches. And even the support staff. … Everybody has a hand in this. It's not just one or two people. It's not just me. We're talking team, from A to Z. We're talking from top to bottom. That's what makes it so special."

Okolo  Attempts Historic Double
Courtney Okolo attempted an almost unheard of double at the Big 12 Championships competing in both the 600 yards and 400 meters. The events are back-to-back on the schedule and allowed for only 45 minutes between races during prelims and 30 in the finals. She came up just short of winning both but managed to impress with her performances.

Okolo turned up the heat in the final lap of the 600 yards to pull away from the field and win with a time of 1:18.24. She backed that up with a fourth-place finish in the 400 meters to score a total of 15 points individually for the Longhorns.

"I met with her the other night, and the first thing she said was, 'I want to win. I want to win the team title.' It wasn't about being the individual 400 meter champion. That's where her other teammates had to step up in Kendall and Ashley. It just shows her range. It shows her God-given ability.

"A person like that leads by example. If you watch what she does out there at practice and how she carries herself off the track, we're very, very fortunate at the University of Texas to have her, not just to represent the track and field team, but represent the University of Texas as a whole."

Horns Claim Quarter-Mile
The Longhorns took the title in the women's 400 meters thanks to Kendall Baisden. The sophomore clocked in at 51.90 seconds with senior Ashley Spencer close behind in second at 52.27. With Okolo's finish in fourth place, the Horns tallied 23 points in the event.

Zack Bilderback completed his repeat in the 400 meters with his time of 46.31 seconds. He is the first man to win back-to-back Big 12 400 titles indoors since Reggie Witherspoon of Baylor from 2006-07.

Snow Wins Hurdles Title
Morgan Snow showed she is the top hurdler in the Big 12 as she claimed the title in the 60 meter hurdles with a time of 8.10 seconds. She bested Texas Tech's Le'Tristan Pledger by just .01 of a second.

Snow's win marks the sixth indoor hurdles title for Texas in the Big 12, the most for any school. She enters the NCAA Championships ranked No. 4 with a season best time of 8.07 seconds after two runners passed her this weekend at their respective conference championships.

For the men, Spencer Dunkerley-Offor finished second with his time of 7.84 seconds. The time was just off his personal best set during the prelims on Friday night at 7.82. BJ Mobolaji also scored for the women in the event, taking fifth to earn four valuable points with her time of 8.35..

Raines Scores Big in Clutch
Sandie Raines came up big for the Longhorns late in the meet. With the 3,000 meters slated as the final event prior to the 4x400 meter relay, the sophomore scored five valuable points to give Texas more of a cushion headed to the final event.

Raines finished fourth with her time of 9:10.43. Her five points were even more valuable because K-State failed to score in the event with the Wildcats' top distance runner finishing ninth and just outside of scoring position. Those five points put Texas up by 4.5 points after K-State reclaimed a small lead after the triple jump.

Mahler Rolls to Win in Heptathlon
Wolf Mahler put together two days' worth of action and personal bests to win his first heptathlon crown for the Longhorns. The sophomore scored 5,717 points over the seventh events to win by 238 points over Iowa State's Taylor Sanderson.

"Wolf did a great job. He knew he wanted to make it to the national meet, but at the same time he wanted to win a conference title. And what a great feat for him. He's another kind of silent guy, but there's not another person out there that works harder than Wolf Mahler," Sategna said.

Mahler tallied personal bests in six of the seven events, with the only event he didn't PR in being the 1,000 meters, the final event of the competition. His score places him eighth in the nation before looking at results from other conference championship meets this weekend.

Story courtesy of TexasSports.com and the University of Texas Athletics Department.

Brian Kendall

Part-time journalist turned full-time blogger, Brian is an online staff writer at Horns Illustrated and serves as senior staff writer for digital marketing agency Speak Social. Brian currently resides in Austin and you can read his blog at the following address: briankendall.wordpress.com

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